The Dolphins again come out of a difficult loss with more questions than answers despite owning a winning record. The team has suffered a rash of injuries, more so through seven weeks than most teams do over the course of an entire season. Now, the Dolphins will head to Houston for a primetime showdown with a talented Texans team, and one player on Houston’s defense is sure to cause havoc.
Each week of the 2018 season, I’m highlighting one player on the opposing team that Dolphins fans should be watching out for. This week, that player is Houston Texans defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
Experience: 6th season
Height/Weight: 5’9”, 185 lbs
In Mathieu’s first season with the Texans (he spent the previous five with the Arizona Cardinals), the uber-talented defensive back has been a very productive cog in Romeo Crennel’s defense. Mathieu has been placed back in his natural free safety position after being moved around more in Arizona’s secondary, and he is thriving as the center fielder in a dangerous defense. Through seven games, the former Pro Bowler has 39 tackles, five passes defended, two interceptions, and a sack.
With J.J. Watt and co. making life difficult for quarterbacks up front, Mathieu has been reaping the benefits of errant throws from pressured passers. Miami’s o-line keeping Brock Osweiler upright will be a must in this contest to prevent Mathieu from having a field day.
The Dolphins are suddenly thin in the pass-catching department. Albert Wilson looks to be out for an extended period of time, Kenny Stills will almost certainly miss this week’s contest after suffering a groin strain against the Lions, and DeVante Parker hasn’t been active for five of Miami’s past seven games. Parker will likely suit up for this matchup, but I’m looking for the team to further rely on a strong tight end group to make things happen.
It’s time for Adam Gase to take advantage of the athleticism he has in 2018 second-round draft pick Mike Gesicki. Despite the fact that Gesicki is likely to be lined up against a linebacker in Houston’s 3-4 defensive scheme, he should be able to dominate if covered by Mathieu at any point. Gesicki has a whopping nine-inch height advantage on the slightly diminutive safety, and putting a jump ball up for the talented tight end down the field could allow for some big plays to occur.
The Dolphins also need to watch out for Mathieu when attempting to make plays in the screen game. Yes, Wilson is hurt, but Miami still has Jakeem Grant out wide to make plays happen after the catch. Mathieu is an unbelievably instinctive playmaker and he’ll sniff out screens quickly if the Dolphins rely on them too often. With Parker and Gesicki in the lineup, Osweiler should be pushing the ball downfield to keep Houston’s defense from keying in on the dink-and-dunks over the middle.